Several hundred anti-gay protesters, including many Slavic Eastern Europeans, rallied in Seattle yesterday to urge the defeat of Referendum 71, which would uphold Washington state’s new domestic partners law.
From children to families to the elderly, a couple of hundred demonstrators, speaking both English and Russian, gathered in Lynnwood on Saturday, carrying signs saying “Protect Children” and “Reject R-71.” “It’s important — a big issue,” said Aleksey Borisov, 24, a construction worker who drove all the way from Eastern Washington with several other members of Light of the Gospel, a Slavic Baptist church in Spokane, to participate. The rally was a visible demonstration of the increasingly active role that members of Russian-speaking conservative evangelical churches are playing in marriage and gay-rights issues, including the battle over Referendum 71.
“They’ve been very helpful,” said Larry Stickney, one of the leaders in the campaign to reject R-71. “They’re helping us get a lot of literature out — door-to-door or at shopping malls, churches. They’re fearless.” R-71, on the Nov. 3 ballot, asks voters whether to approve or reject a recent state law granting marriagelike benefits to same-sex and senior couples who are registered domestic partners. A vote to approve R-71 keeps the law; a vote to reject scuttles it.Stickney says Slavic evangelical churches played a role in getting R-71 on the ballot in the first place. He recalls delivering 8,000 petitions to several such churches, which in turn, distributed them to other churches statewide, he said. When the Secretary of State’s Office was verifying names of voters who’d signed the petitions, there were so many signatures of Russian names being questioned that Stickney brought in a Russian-speaking lawyer to explain that in Russia, people signed their last name first.
Last week 50-100 Russian-speaking pastors rallied their congregations at Spokane-area churches to attend the protest.